Football Rivalry And The Illogical Hostility of Its Fans

If you stood outside Old Trafford and asked every one of the 76,000 entering the ground who their biggest rivals were the answers would be pretty much weighted towards Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal with perhaps one or two European clubs thrown into the mix.

You can absolutely guarantee that not one of them would say Oldham Athletic but if you did the same poll outside Boundary Park (which would arguably take a lot less time) there would definitely be a number of people who would pick Manchester United.

This is because Oldham fans have had to suffer taunts from United supporters whether it be at school, work, the pub or in one case I heard about, an adjoining hospital bed.

I think I should point out that I am well aware that there is a fine line of divide between teams who are rivals and ones that supporters hate. The ‘rivals’ bit seems to have been discarded over the years.

However, given that Oldham have played an awful lot more of the sides outside the Premier League than United, our fans have a much wider choice of teams who could be considered distasteful.

In our house, it was always Tranmere Rovers. For years I thought it had something to do with Oldham’s record defeat of 13-4 on Boxing Day 1935 but my Father always maintained he wasn’t at the match. Even my Mother, who only set foot inside Boundary Park on one occasion always called them ‘Dirty Tranmere’.

Latics fans have referred to the Birkenhead club as ‘bin dippers’ for years so the animosity obviously wasn’t confined to our home.

Whenever I announced that I was going to Prenton Park to watch Latics, it was met with warnings of dire consequences for both me and the team. I’m pleased to report that I always returned in one piece but the same can’t be said for various Latics sides. With both teams now back in the same division, those hostilities may surface again. My hope is for a convincing Oldham victory, our family honour depends on it!